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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  December 19, 2010 8:00pm-9:00pm EST

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>> that's a fun question. a famous biographer friend of mine asked me to give those lectures and i didn't read the fine printing. the norton elections, then i saw norton sponsoring the letter signed a contract with me and i had to turn them into a book and i thought we published the electors but if anyone finds out when they tried to turn them into a book three don't make a book so i then labored away. i was fairly busy running memorials cancer center in but i found the time after four years to take the lectures as a starting point and write a whole lot more, go into up about issues i found interesting. the process was good, it was just hard at times but i am very glad now that i was given the contract which i signed without fully appreciating the implications iraq the book is
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called the art and politics of .. >> it's a different civil war, and, of course, it's ajarring to hear the war of 1812 called the civil war, and so what i want to do today is try to make the case for what i've titled it the way that i have. now, the war of 1812 ordinarily
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looms fairly small in american's memory. it's ordinarily forgotten as insignificant because it seemed to have ended in a draw that changed no boundaries or changed no policy, now, at best americans will recall the war for a handful of patriotic icons, the national anthem, the victories of the american warship, the constitution known as old iron sides. for the british party and burning the white house and then for the pay back in the rightful men take against the british army in northerly. these images suggest the war was a defense of the united states against british invasion because all of these episodes come out primarily in the last year of the war in a period in which the
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british are mounting a counteroffensives. canadians what americans forget is that the war began and was fought as an american invasion of canada, and so canadians remember a very different war. they remember -- they celebrate their victory in the war, and i want to advise you that if you are ever with a canadian, do not say the united states won the war of 1812 because they take this seriously. [laughter] i find this out every time i go through border and go through passport control because they want to ask me why i'm coming into canada, and i should have learned by now not to tell them the truth. [laughter] i tell them i'm there to do historical research. of course, the next question is what are you researching, and then i make my mistake which is to say the war of 1812. well, this is going to keep me there for another 10 minutes, not that they are more
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suspicious of me, but just want me to know that canada won the war, and they want to know that i know that. [laughter] if any of you have been backed up for a long period of time behind my car, i just want to apologize to you. [laughter] now, what canadians remember is their victory as a david over the american go -- goliath. they recall american burning their public buildings first and the capitol of upper canada then called york, but now called toronto, and they had their own patriotic figures, the martyrs and the sea cord equivalent of paul revere now famous for a line of chocolates, but what i want to do in this book is not to try to promote pay treatism
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on either side of the borderment i think it's fine on both sides, but that's not the goal of the book. the book is to attempt a bodder tempt history for those who experienced the war along the border who were invaded by both sides. it's about the relationship of soldiers with civilians which i think has much more significant than we ordinarily think of in military history. we tend to talk about the jock jockeying of armies that's important, and we tend to forgot the civilian context in which they operate. they are sources of support, sources of food, and sources potentially of betrayal. the book focuses on a border land that extends from on the east of montreal up to the st. lawrence river up the great lakes into detroit. this is the theater for most of the fighting in the war.
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it is the primary target of american invasion. on the mesh side of the border -- on the american side of the border, of course, it's new york state, on the brit ire side of the border, it's upper canada. now, consequently it's a difficult different than a conventional history of 1812 that ranges all over the globe wherever there was american forces, and this was a war fought on the high seas including the pacific, fought along the gulf coast and lantics k0*es and chesapeake bay. i have little to say about those topics because i am focusing on the interaction of canadians and americans in this border land. that's my central story. to compensate for the somewhat limited geographic range, i offer greater depth in time. it's a story that begins with the first american civil war, the american revolution which divided americans between those
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who supported the revolution and those americans who favored unity of the empire instead. it goes from the revolution through the 1780s and 90s, first decade in the 19th century before we get to the war, and then it pays considerable attention to the post war consequences for upper canada during the 1820s and 1830s. i argue this is a civil war of peoples because the difference between the british and americans is not as clear cut. we tend to think of the american revolution as making a clean break and making an american nationality that was distinct from the british, and i argue that process was only partial as
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of 1812. the officers and soldiers on both sides experienced this. they see the people as potential converts to their side, and as people who are culturally essentially similar. you got a great mixing in the united states as irish scots and english people and african-americans, but you find the same mix of peoples over in canada, and so often people's perception is not that they are fighting americans or brit ire, but -- british, but that they are an irish person living in america with british regiments and not living in canada. a british lieutenant visited an american army camp. he had a message to bring to the american commander, and it struck him as strange when meeting the officers and hearing their names. "strange indeed did
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it appear to me to find so many names familiar. the very names of officers in my own army. how uncomfortably like a civil war." he then bantered with an american officer who just returned from shooting birds. he said to the officer, "much pleasanter support than shooting one own's kindred?" a month later an atrocity by american troops led him to denounce the americans as deserving no mercy in battle. "they are worse than frenchmen, the rascals." [laughter] so said the british officer with a french name. [laughter] now, in this north american civil war, brothers fought brothers at times in a border land of mixed peoples. at kingston in upper canada, he lodged with a mrs. elizabeth
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robinson. "they are a yankee family and have relatives in the british and american navy." another reported that a canadian soldier shot an american riffleman and then ran up to plunder his corpse when, "he discovered it was his own brother." but then this canadian soldier coldly remarked, "it served him right for fighting for the rebels when his family fought for king george." this is the war of 1812, not the revolution, but for this man as for so many, they regard this as a continuation of the revolution, that the revolution is not over for these people. dunlap concluded said "such is a variance of political ranking
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that is overcomes nature." we think we have just one civil war from the 1860s which is a much bigger and bloodier affair than the war of 1812. we need, i think, if we can recall the war of 1812 as a civil war and if we recall just how unstable the american union and republic was in the generation after the revolution. there was just a feeling of many people, the united states including many leaders that they were embarked on a very risky experiment in the geographic scale, and they were conscious of the regional differences, not just between north and south, but also between east and west, and there was a great deal of anxiety that some people were conspiring somewhere to kind of
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leave their section off separately, but i'm wondering if you balance out these regions in a way that would preserve the stability of the country, and then they thought they had a further problem that would have made peoples to the west, and they were persuaded that the british were meddling with those native peoples and encouraging them, forming alliances with them to block american expansion, and that this might blow up the american union if they fail to expand west ward. then there's concern that grows especially from 1807 on that perhaps british spies are at work within the united states. perhaps in cay hoots with the political minority in the country, the federalists, were feeling quite alienated of their government under the leadership of the republican party. not todays, but the republican
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party of thomas jefferson and of james madison. there's a great deal of insecurity within the united states, and nobody's entirely confident that this is going to endure particularly if the british remain as their neighbor to the north in canada which is regarded as a source of trouble that could exploit the weakness of the american union and blow it apart. on the other hand, you will find the same people expressing this conviction that the british empire in north america could never last, that the british were an unnatural presence in a continent that rightly should have a republican form of government everywhere, and there's anxiety among british leaders after the american revolution. they are worried whether they're going to be able to maintain their control over canada, and so no one is certain that the
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border between the united states, between the united states and canada, between the republic and the empire, is fixed and permanent. on the contrary, most people assume that it's either going to move north or south rather than stay put, and so the people who live on either side of the border are regarded as in play in terms of their allegiance, and the war is fought in ways that are meant to purr suede people -- persuade people to the open to the possibility of switching their allegiance, and deep within the republic, the politics are so bitterly partisan, that the republicans regard their opposition, the federalists, as crypt loyalists. in 1812, a writer explained that ideology rather than nationality distinguished the north american
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republican from a north american loyalist, and that these people could be found on both sides of the border, both republicans and loyalists. "as much as the people of the two nations resemble each other in faith, it is evident that there are some in america whose souls are perfectly british, and it is believed that there are some in britain who are americans at heart. it is not where a man is born or who he looks like, but what he thinks which ought at this day to constitute the difference between an american citizen and a british subject." it's not nationality, it's ideology. so there's competition between the republic and the empire keeps blurry the national boundary and national identities in america through the war of 1812. now, this overlap of british people and american peoples becomes much more complicated
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after the revolution because people continue to move around. there are two migration streams in particular that play into this war. the first is of irish people leaving the british empire and migrating to the united states. they are over 60% of the imgrants who come into the united states between 1783 and 1820, and these are people who are mostly feeling quite alienated from the british empire and its rule over ireland. a high proportion of them are politically active, and they are concentrated in places that are very politically strategic in american politics, particularly in the sea port cities of new york, philadelphia, and baltimore where they are in positions to swing erections and narrowly contested states #-bg and they overwhelmingly support
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the republican party and the desire for that party and its administration to have a policy towards the british empire, and they tend to be enthusiast for the invasion of canada in the hope that it is going to start a process of unraveling the entire british empire that would liberate ireland as well as canada, so that's one migration flow. you've got a lot of people considered by the british empire to still be british subjects because the british believe, british leaders believed, that once you're born a subject, you can never cease to be a subject no matter where you go in the world, no matter what legal process of naturalization you may go through, it is completely out of the view of british officials. they believe, for example, when they find these irishmen on
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american merchant ships that they have every right to grab them off of the merchant ship and cast them into the royal navy potentially for life, and it is this treatment of former british subjects who believe they have become american citizens that is the prime cause of the war with the secondary cause being american concern over british alliances with native peoples. now, the second migration stream i want to talk about is that of americans, people born within the united states moving into canada. now, of course, we know about the true loyalists who have to go immediately after the war of the american revolution because they have no choice, and about 6,000 such people go to upper canada. many more go to the maritime
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provinces and others go to the west indies, and some will go to england, but on top of that migration stream, there's a subsequent larger migration stream that is the late loyalists, and these people go during the 17 # 0s and the first decade of the 19th century, and there are at least going into upper canada for of these people, about 50,000 compared to the 6,000 true loyalists. now, some of the people it's true they had been passively assisting british forces during the revolution, but most of them were just people who didn't want to fidgeted in the american revolution. a lot of them were quakers or dunkers or menonnites. others were just people looking for cheap land and low taxes
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which upper canada offered. one of the ironnies of the american revolution that it increases the price of frontier land. now, one way that settlers can avoid paying the higher price of land is to move back into the british empire because canada was offering virtually free land to anybody who they could buy any re-- by any remote chance call them a loyalist. they get free land, take an oath of allegiance to king george, and then go about their business little expecting that a war would come into their midst. now, these two migration spans, of the irish coming into the united states and of these americans, mostly from the middle atlantic region going into upper canada will collide in the war of 1812.
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irish americans end up serving in numbers disproportion gnat to their numbers in the american population. now, the way this isn't surprising is immigrants have always served in especially large numbers in the regular armies of the united states, and that continues to this day, and the irish were the number one imgrant group, but it's also the case that their political leaders and journalists are great enthusiasts for the war against the british empire and encourage enlistments. the irish are serving on private warships serving in the american navy and also serving in the american regular army. now, when they fight then in upper canada, it turns out that the british regular regiments they fight against almost all were recruited in ireland, so
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there's actually a larger percentage of irish people serving in the british regular regiments in canada than in the american army. from an irish perspective, # 24 is a civil war between irish peoples. it's clear that something on the order of 70% of the soldiers serving in canada during this war were irish. ireland had become a primary recruiting ground for the british army in a period in which that army must expand dramatically because it's waging a global war against that polian's empire so they relaxed previous restrictions on protestants serving in the british army, and ireland becomes a place to recruit troops, and it turns out they sent a lot of these troops to canada and could continue to do
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so as they reenforced those troops during the course of the war. now, because the british have been very nervous that these irish solders might go over to the americans, it's important for them to make a point of punishing american soldiers who happen to be irish who are captured in american defeats of which there are many in canada. when they would capture these irish american soldiers or sailors, they gave them a harsh choice. you must now enlist in british forces, become a british soldier or sailor, or you must stand trial as a trader in which -- traitor in which the penalty is death. now, if any of the people previously served in military forces and it could be proved, these people were not given a choice. they were simply executed.
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now, if they were people to immigrated to the united states without prior military experience or at least prior military experience that could be proved, they were begin the choice. most people choose to go into the british military. now, this doesn't mean they are fickle people. i think most of us would make the same choice, and these people are calculating that the day is going to come when they can desert and get back to the american forces which they could not do if they had been hung. now, there are 23 soldiers, and then later there's another 59 soldier, and then later another 101 sailors who all refuse to accept going into british forces, and they are sent to england for trial, but the initial group of 23 become the test case. irish american political figures within the united states make it quite clear to the madison
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administration that they have delivered, for madison's reelection in 1812, and they are delivering hundreds and thousands of irish americans to serve in the american forces, and that all of that's going to come to a halt if the united states does nothing, should the british end up hanging any of these 23 men, so the united states then tells the british government that they are going to take 23 captured british officers, turns out many of them were irish -- [laughter] because they were captured in canada where most of the forces were irish and british, so you got irish being held hostage on both sides for the fate of the others. british commanders said fine, we're setting aside 46 american captured officers for the fate of those 23 that you're holding hostage on top of the initial 23
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that we have. they set aside 46 british officers and nco's because at that point they were running out of captured british officers. [laughter] this goes on with the british doubling what the american had until all the officers and nco's were held prisoner by both sides and designated as hostages so if the british proceed to execute any of the original 23, it's going to set off a blood bath. now, in the end, the british decide nod to do this because they would like to get out of this war. they would not like it to last forever, and so they know that negotiating a peace with the united states would be very difficult if both sides have the blood of lots of prisoners on their hands, so and finally i just want to talk about native peoples which is an additional
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dimension of the war because native people side on both sides, and native nations are divided by the war because natives of the same nation lived on either side of the boundary which had been run against their will through their midst in the wake of the american revolution, and so you have people that we often call the irqua and shawnees living there. you find them fighting as allies and the same plays out for the other natives. this is a north american civil war going on. one in which americans are fighting americans because those americans who are settled within upper canada are under pressure
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to serve as a militia against the american invaders, and so i think the very first casualty of the war is an upper canadian militiaman who is shot by an american sniper, while that upper canadian militiaman was an american by birth. when forces go to canada and opponents include upper canadian militia, it's americans versus americans overwhelmingly because the americans who settled in upper canada were two-thirds of canada's population by 1812. it's also a civil war of irish people against irish people. it's a civil war within the british empyre over where the british empire extends to
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wherever its subjects go in the world, and finally it's involving native people on both sides of the border and of the war. now, ultimately by telling the story of the border land war, i want to say it is less about some sort of nationality understood as ethnicity than it is as a contest between a republic and an empire for the allegiance of diverse peoples who lived on both sides of the border. both republicans and here i'm talking about people who ideologically are committed 20 a republican form -- to a republican form of government, both republicans and loyalists, and here i mean anyone loyal to the mixed constitution of great britain. they both suspected the continue innocent was not big enough for their rival systems, republic and mixed constitution. one or the other would have to prevail in the house divided. like the revolution, the war of
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1812 was a civil war between competing visions of america. either one still loyal to the empire or the other defined by its republican revolution against that empire, a revolution that was still on beginning, but neither side would reap what it expected from the war. frustrated in their fantasies of smashing the other, the loyalists and the republican americas had to learn how to share the continent and to call coexistence victory. by ending in stand yawch, the war of 1812 had the greatest of consequences for north america. thank you. [applause] >> when we take questions, the mic will be passed around, so if
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you would wait until you get the microphone before asking your question, i'll just begin the questions, and if any would like to raise their hand, they can be given the microphone in the mean tame. alan, you are most interested in the civil war aspect, but i wondered if you wanted to say a little about what the british hoped to gain by the war of 1812? were they really just interested in neutralizing america while siding the major war in europe, or sometimes this is portrayed as a war as almost attempted reconquer, but really their plans were limited, were they not? >> well, the british empire like the united states has divided leadership, and you're quite right that the majority view is that the british have more important business to deal with in europe which is napolitan
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fighting for their empire and way of life and prosperity. they felt that the united states had basically committed a soccer punch on britain that was doing the world's good deed by containing this after world domination. when you read about napolitan, it's not too far off about what people would say about hitler. they have a hard go of it. certainly they've prevailed on the high seas, but when the war begins, napolitan is at the crest of his power launching his invasion of russia and french forces are still predominant in spain where wellington's army is heavily engaged, so the goal
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number one of the war is let's end this as quickly as we can, but see if the americans will listen to reason. let's see if we can negotiate a quick exit and avoid sending anymore than the minimum number of reenforcements than we need to go to canada. that's the predominant perspective. the minority opinion is the americans, how dare they attack us when we were down. this shows us you cannot trust these people with the republican form of government. boy, wouldn't we love to blow them apart? wouldn't it be great if we could really encourage the new englanders to separate? wouldn't it be great to encourage the slaves to run away? wouldn't it be wonderful to get indian peoples to reclaim lands south as far as the ohio? there's many people in the field either admirals or generals operating in canada who allow
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this kind of wouldn't it be great thinking to inform their actions and to inform their advice back to the home government, and once napolitan goes down in the spring of 1814, that view is appealing to policymakers in london, and they think, yeah, we really need to negotiate a tougher boundary and talk through back channels and doing and grabbing new orleans and think about kind of stifling american development in the west that many things might be possible now, so that kind of much more aggressive view of the possibilities surges in the fall of 1814. then, diplomatic relations in europe seem to sour in the late fall of 1814 and looks to be another war in europe, and then the older predominant view of a war in north america as a
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distraction and comes back and the negotiators get strick instructions to get out of the war. give americans terms saying we'll give you back the territories, restore the boundary that it was at the start of the war, we'll agree, we won't talk about the sailors, moot point anyway, we don't need a big navy and we'll just go our ways and just try to be friendly from now on, so in the end, it's kind of like these three acts, and the longest first act is how you described it. there's a brief second act toying with the idea of really trying to blow up the republic and the union, and then the third act in which they agree to make a peace that allows the union and the republic to endure. >> so what was the motivation for the indian tribes to fight on either side? i don't think they would have viewed the british or the
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americans as friends. >> well, they have much more reason to view the british as potential friend. the american numbers are much larger so, you know, the united states in 1810 is over 7 million people. it doesn't seem large to us, but if you're about 100,000 native peoples and a neighbor with 7 #.2 million people, and in canada there's 300,000 people. british canada is less of a threat to common native peoples than is the united states at that time, and the british recognized that they are greatly outnumbered by the american population, and so they need indian allies, that's why they make alliances on the other side of the border which from the british perspective is a border that shouldn't really exist anyway, so the native peoples, the great majority of them, saw the british as very useful allies to have and preferred to
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fight on their side when commanders are promising them they'll roll back american settlements back to the ohio river, so the shawnee leader is the most influential who is trying to build. why would native peoples support the united states? well, they are peoples who are living on reservations in which they are essentially surrounded by american settlements, and early in the war, the americans tell the indian peoples we don't want you involved. they insisted that it was barbaric for the britishs to employee indians in the war, and the americans were going to take the high and low ground without employing indians. this turns out to be disastrous
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because they are affective in the forced warfare which is what most of the war consistents of in canada and contribute to some very embarrassing defeats by american forces that invaded canada, so come 1813, many american officers are saying, okay, we tried the high road, now we want our own indians, and they put pressure on the indians within the reservations that, look, you need our friendship, and you better come and help us. now, there are some native peoples that have their own reasons to be involved in war in part because young men want to prove themselves as warriors and kind of being stuck in reservations is no way to do that, so initially there's some warming to this idea on the part of these indians who end up allying with the united states, but they'll rethink this when they find themselves in combat
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and the people they fight against are their own kin. >> phil williams, thank you for this fascinating talk. i really enjoyed this tremendously. could you drop down from the northern border and speak more specifically about the back channels and the potential for sus session in the -- succession in the new england states in particular at that time? >> right. the new ceo -- england states were very hostile to the war, or i should say, the majority was hostile to the war. one of the ironnies is that it's a primary recruiting ground for american regular regimens.
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it's a divided region. there is a republican minority, and they have strong supporters of the war, and so american regiments are heavily recruited in new england, but the majority of people in new england are federalists opposed to the war, and they just see one disaster after another unfolding in the war, and they see their commerce being cut up by the royal navy, and so there's something a little close to -- there is an economic recession going on in new england making people bitter. they are feeling they've been assigned to a permanent minority status in the nation that seems to be governed by virginnians which new englanders had a hard time getting their mind around. washington was great, but then jefferson and now it's monroe following him, so there's this
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very kind of antivirginia attitude that develops in new england saying this is a plot to destroy new england, and so if you believe that then you think there's no place for you in the union anymore. some people talk reck leslie and talk recklessly saying unless new england can conduct its own defense, they're going to have to seek a separate peace, and we know that the governor of massachusetts sends a secret adversary to chat with nova scotia saying what if we were to stop paying taxes to the united states and stop recognizing the authority of the united states, would britain extend protection over new england. he says, well this is a higher
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pay grade to decide this. i'll send to lone ton for this. now, while this is going on convention is being held in which the delegates talk and say do we dare do this now? they decide they don't dare, but they make provocative demands for a set of nonstarter amendments to the u.s. constitution including that you couldn't have a president from the same state succeed each other, and that -- [laughter] well, that's not very well coded. [laughter] so these are nonstarters, and then they're going to have a convention in the spring. they think the war is still going to be going on, and they just want to be prarped. if the united states is faltering because it's basically
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a bankrupted country. the credit was gone by the fall of 1814, that they may have made the leap in the spring. we won't know because peace comes along to interrupt all of this. >> since we're here in jefferson lant, he said that the conquest of canada is a mere manner of marching, and i was wondering if you got the sense that either in washington or actually on the ground on the american side of the border, that was sort of an active understanding of how this plays out that it would be, you know, we wave our flag and hand out an invitation, and there would be no real fighting in the war of 1812. >> well, there's a widespread belief that there will be some fighting, but it will be very easily won because they think, well, look, most people in upper canada are american, and they won't fight us. we'll deal with the british
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regularrers and roll over them easily, so jefferson's quotes say we can get to the gates of quebec in year one of the war, and year two will be mopping up, capturing quebec and oust the british forever from north america. well, that's a fantasy to go that far, but a lot of people thought he was right about conquering upper canada really quickly. quebec is a very serious fortrees and would be a tough nut for the american military to have cracked given their lack of much of a professional army at that point. jefferson is not alone on that because the republicans think this is going to be a cake walk and thought troubles would coal at sea, and so the ironny is that the republican political leadership really didn't like the navy, and didn't want to invest money in it.
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they saw the army as more cost effective and expected to win the war on land. well, what does year one bring them? disasters on land. one after another. the little navy is winning victories that strategically don't amount to anything, but in terms of moral and both sides, british don't expect to ever lose one-on-one ship battles. they just don't do that, but they are losing them all the time to the americans, and it's impossible to understate how shocking this is to the british, and the americans are thrilled by this. you get calhoun and henry clay who never voted a dollar on the navy and now they are saying they are victorious, and they start investing in the navy, so it's a war in which i would stay like all wars doesn't play out the way anybody expects it to,
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so these naval victories end up in the long term being, you know, very important. that's why i got the u.s. constitution on my tie today because that's what we remember now is these great naval victories and probably most of us would be very hards pressed to name -- hard pressed to name the crushing defeats the americans suffered in 1812 and 1813 on canadian soil. >> the areas that you've focused on in the book, you know, the upper lakes and canada, i know, of course, was a key area to strategically during the revolutionary war and the lead up to car toga -- saratoga, and are the ideas similar in using the plain as a
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corridor in the hudson and seeing that as the key to yuling the northern states. >> well, the united states potentially has many more military resources in the war of 1812 than it had in the revolution. it's got an up and running government, starts the war with public credit, it's got something of an army and navy, and it doesn't have to start all the things from scratch the way the american revolutionaries had. the american revolutionary despite the limited resources are very aggressive about invading canada early because they regard having the british on the northern flank to be a great security risk because of british influence with native peoples, so the americans do the sensible thing and invade the natural invasion route, the invasion route used during the seven years war which is lake channel plain. it's the easiest way to move an army with all of its equipment
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is by water. >> and, of course montgomery and benedict arnold. >> he is going that route, and benedict arnold is doing a whacky route through my state of mains that he -- maine that he barely survives. monmontreal which the american pay patriots capture and then move to quebec and beseech that and attack it and are defeated there, and it's a long roll back during 1776 and driven out of canada. well, that would have been the natural strategy to pursue, and it's the one suggested by jefferson that they are going to target montreal first and then quebec. that's how you win a war in canada because everything upper stream, upper canada, is going to fall anyway because you cult them off --
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cut them from from reenforcements and supply, cut them off from quebec, the british empire, that's the key to winning, and everybody understood that sort of. the problem is the united states doesn't feel it has enough regular soldiers to take on in the first year of the war an attack against montreal, so they are casting bouts where can we use smaller forces and win something so that we can impress voters before the fall election and build popular support for this war which is a little shaky in the country right now. we need victory. they are looking for places for easy victories, and they decide upper canada, so even though strategically it makes no sense to invade upper canada, you should be invading lower canada that we now call quebec. they invade upper canada from the worst possible place which
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is from detroit at the far end of the line because thigh have been fooled by an incompetent military commander into believing he could win a quick and easy victory by invading western upper canada from detroit. it turns out as bad as possible because after a brief defeat in canada, he panics and he surrenders without firing a shot, so fall of 1812 instead of having a glorious victory somewhere in canada, they got a set of disasters, the worse of which is the loss of detroit, and it's just going to be really tough going thereafter in waging this war. >> well, alan taylor sits on the
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academic board in month cello, and it's been great to have him back here, and we wish him every success with his reinterpretation of the war of 1812. thank you very much. [applause] >> appreciate it. >> thank you. [applause] >> this event took place in virginia. visit for more information. >> john dower is the finalist of the national book award in the nonfiction cat boyar, professor dower, what's the similarity between pearl harbor and 9/11? >> well, that's where the book begins when 9/11 happened.
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headlines all over the u.s. said day of infamy, some of them quoted roosevelt's famous saying eight days which lives in infamy and people said surprise attack, used the word comemy cay disa and went back to pearl harbor to try to grasp the e norty of this, but then i work on -- i've written on asia. i'm a historian of japan, and i've done a lot of thinking about the war. it's a bit more complicated because then it spun into failure of intelligence, surprise attack, then it started to get into world world war ii where you had the firemen picture raising the stars and stripes, that iconic picture, and it was' woe gem ma. the president began calling the war on terror and then quoted
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roosevelt and truman. it went from pearl hair bar 9/11 then world war ii and ground zero, and now it's a whole different dimension. it began with 9/11 in infamy and became more complicated. >> tie together hiroshima and iraq. >> well, hiroshima and 9/11, that was the real tie because ground zero is an atomic bomb phrase. that's the origination. the question of terror bombing or deliberately targeting civilians is a practice out of world war ii with the air war and world war ii, you wanted to destroy enemy morale of the ang
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anglo american power in the united states and it was done in germany, so the ground zero 45 and 2001 is the link. the iraq link is laws of choice to begin with because we go from 9/11, this war of choice by the islamist terrorists to the japanese war of choice earlier, and there's a parallel, and then suddenly we have a war of choice against iraq, and then we have a terrific failure of intelligence in iraq, just a disastrous failure of intelligence on the part of the united states and so then you got pearl harbor which was the japanese tactical brilliant, strategically idiotic
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thing, and the war of islamists, and the american choice. i'm a historian and wanted to understand it's not all the same, but i wanted to see how you could do or think comparatively about war and then every side is talking holy wars, and wars have always been with us in modern times even with new technologies, and i really want the to wrestle with it. i had to try to figure some things out for myself, ask questions i hadn't asked. >> vietnam is not a focus of your book, why? >> it's not a focus of the book because there was simply not space to do it, but vietnam figures in as one of the major cultures of war. it's mentioned in passing in a number of ways. vietnam figures in both as a place where you deliberately targeted noncombatants.
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vietnam figures in in a different way in the failures of intelligence, and i write about this at some length. the subtitle could only be so long. it wasn't that i was going back to vietnam, but the striking thing in the failure of intelligence was that in vietnam, we had basically the united states had or lost in an insurgency and after vietnam we ceased to study counterinsurgency in the u.s. government. it was dropped from the military academies. it was dropped, we were not going to get involved in that, and there was no preparation for what we encountered in iraq and afghanistan. afghanistan figures in, of course, also, but i focus mostly on iraq, and there the failure of intelligence on our part, on the u.s. part, was
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extraordinary. why? so i was trying to think of this over time, and one thing this does is it takes you to think comparatively about the u.s. in ways that are sometimes a bit taboo and a little bit make people uncomfortable. it's not saying it's all the same, but also it nips it out of the bush of the administration per se when you step back in history and look at the bigger picture and you're going back to world war ii, going back to other things. at one point in the book i'm at the philippines at the turn of the century, you know, when the u.s. conquered the philippines in 1898, early 1900s, and all the rhetoric was there. i have a line in the book that you want to find the ghost bind the ghost writers. with george bush, go back to the philippines, the rhetoric, the language is all there, so to think about war as a culture is
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very painful. it's painful because it's asking very hard things about us as human beings, not as americans or something. it's about us as human human beings and in the modern age where we have war with us all the time, the technology may change, but somehow we're caught in this coil, and it seems lard to get out, and i do it at levels of both the individual and the institutions, and so at the end i came upon talking about con cements of pathology, individual pathologies and institutional bureaucratic dysfunctions, very, very hard things to wrestle with. it took a long time, but that's where it ended up. speaking of george bush, have you or will you be reading "decision points" particularly the chapters on afghanistan and
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iraq? >> well, i -- i read very, very extensively in memoirs by everyone. memoirs, investigative journalists, reports leaked by the bush administration, and i made a decision to keep working on the book until the end of the bush administration. that's when the research stopped. i will look at his autobiography certainly, but i hope to move to a subject that is cultures of peace or cultures of something else in the future rather than go back to this right now. >> professor john dower already won the national book award for embracing defeat and won the pulitzer prize for that book as well and is no , nominated for the nonfiction category for cultures of war of pearl harbor


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